A truly great trail winds into the essence of a place, so when assembling this list of Europe’s great hikes, we looked for walks that travel deeper into a location’s history, scenic beauty and culture. Each trail tells a rich story so whether you choose from Amalfi Coast in Italy, Santorini in Greece or Cappadocia in Turkey and Algarve, Portugal, you can be sure of an experience of a lifetime.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast is widely considered the most scenic and exotic stretch of Italy and has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is a cultural landscape of Mediterranean Cliffside-villages along one side and glittering turquoise water on the other. It is a long shoreline route encompassing many cities and towns stretching right from Salerno to Positano. Each city exhibits its own flavour of culture.
The striking features of Amalfi are its lemon tree gardens on steep hill-slopes and colored terrace houses that make for a breathtaking view. The highly advised trekking route is from Salerno - Ravello - Amalfi - Duomo di Sant’Andrea - Valle dei Mulini - Positano. Once in Positano, don’t miss hiking the famous “The Path of the Gods” trail.
One opines of short guided hikes in these regions at a time. Each of these hikes could easily take between 5 to 6 hours on foot or even more, depending on your speed. Its best advised to take a dedicated tour guide if you are hiking in this region for the first time.
Cappadocia has made a mark for its fairytale-style valleys and mountain formations caused by volcanic eruptions. With natural conical formations, ravines, deep and far-fetching canyons and cliffs, Cappadocia has more than enough exotic trails and tracks on the platter. All one needs is a detailed map of tracks and foot trails for company if you don’t seek to invest in a tour guide.
The two most popular destinations here are the Rose Valley and the Ihlara Valley near the major city of Goreme. Rose Valley gets name so due to its prominent rose color in the rocks. This hue changes in degree depending upon the period of day, weather and season. Based on your ability, you could opt for different routes - easy to difficult level. These trails can last anywhere between 2 to 4 hours long, depending on the path and difficulty level chosen. En route you can witness cave churches, cave houses and cave tunnels.
What distinguishes the valley is the Melendiz River that runs through the bottom of the valley painting it in shades of green and blue. The valley stretches to a length of 14 km, with three different trekking routes that could be availed. Other than these, there are a few more pretty valleys in Cappadocia to traverse. With guided foot tours, the rest making the list are - Pigeon Valley (4 km), Love Valley (2 km), Zemi Valley (5 km), Honey Valley (5 km) and the Uzengi Valley (4 km).
Where the Cappadocia is revered for its moon-like structure and underground cities, one cannot miss out on the chance to go Hot Air Ballooning whilst here. The closest airports to Cappadocia are Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) in Kayseri and the Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) in the Nevşehir province.
Santorini is actually a volcanic island in the Cyclades group of Greece. Santorini is also known by the name Thira. This petite island is house to a variety of landscapes and villages. It has a unique amalgamation of traditional and restored new villas snaked by cobblestone roads and pathways. Due to its supreme natural beauty, Santorini is often the pet favorite for film and music-video shooting schedules.
The island is best explored on either bicycle or on foot. Bicycles would do well to those fitness freaks but there aren’t any dedicated bicycle tracks. So you’d just have to bear it out with the normal narrow paths. On the contrary, the foot trails are well guided and offer amazing scenic walks from Fira to Oia (pronounced: la) through the caldera hills (crescent-shaped). Make sure you watch out for the picturesque sunsets while at Oia.
Getting to Santorini is through sea and air, both. The closest international airport is at Athens, and from there you could take a domestic flight to Santorini National Airport. Or else, ferries are almost always running 24x7 here.
Southern Austria (Telfes, near Innsbruck)
The entire region of Southern Austria is blessed with serenely apt locales and high mountains. This one place makes for a magnificent hotspot for nature-lovers and those high on mountaineering and hiking. Telfes is one such spot to reckon with - its located in in the Stubaital valley near the capital city of Innsbruck, Tyrol region.
The resident Tourist office has multiple options for guided walk tours. Alternately, one can trail the paths on own using the maps. Telfes offers a variety of routes to be traversed depending on whether you seek to walk, hike or simply explore. Since, it’s a small village you may not have many options of entertainment here. One is best advised to reside at Innsbruck (which is 12 km to Telfes’ north). Innsbruck is the capital of the Tyrol region and as such offers many a charming prospects in accommodation, food and entertainment.
The closest airport for Telfes is at Innsbruck. From there on, one can take tramway or a bus to Telfes from Innsbruck.
Situated in the southernmost tip of Portugal is famous for its crystal clear waters and clean beaches. It has become a most favoured holiday destination the world over.
The Algarve is a Walker’s Paradise. It’s a complete package of nature right from lofty mountains to orange-filled valleys, from beautiful coastlines to natural reserves. The shorter trekking routes in this region are from:
Conceicao to Tavira Walk: this walk will take you through the Ria Formosa National Park, where if lucky you could get to see some exotic flamingos too. Tavira is a well-known shopping centre here.
- Ilha de Tavira Walk: this one’s an off-the-beach walk. Care for some solitude time? Then this walk along the Barril beach will provide you ample “me” time.
- Manta Rota to Monte Gordo: a complete 9 km walk, this one route has many pit-stops for you to savor.
- Walk from Praia de Luz to Lagos: this one is through the cliffs and amidst the flora and fauna of Algarve. Climb the cliff-tops for exquisite never-ending view of the sea and landscapes around.
On the whole, Algarve is relatively cheap, safer and all the more welcoming. Reaching Algarve is by bus/car from the nearest airport - Faro Airport. From here, take a direct taxi to Algarve to you could travel by public transports like bus and train.
Lake District, England
This scenic landscape is England’s premier hiking and climbing destination. Lake District is actually the largest National Park in England. What makes it stand out in the list is that it offers hiking across the mountains as well as serene walks along the lakes too. The park boasts of 16 lakes and numerous mountain hills and woodlands. Here, these hills are known by the local term - Fells.
Most noted are the Lakeland Fells, offering challenging trails and treks. Years and years of walking have caused the fells to be imprinted with an exceptional network of walking trials and paths. The highest peak to be surpassed is the Scafell Pike pulling the most crowds. Other known fells include the Great Gable and the Helvellyn as well-liked choices.
Closest airport is at the Blackpool while the Windermere railway station is centrally located within the Southern Lakes. While in Lake District take boat trips too along with the delights of a tourist steam railway along the base of Lake Windermere.
Matterhorn near Zermatt, Switzerland
Matterhorn is one of the sky-piercing mountains of the Alps. It overlaps the borders of Switzerland and Italy both.
Matterhorn is considered to be a Swiss hiker’s paradise and remains to be one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered, the story of which is very tragic and dramatic itself. It encapsulates the best, splendid views one can behold. There are many trail routes to choose from, and depending on your ability you could also lengthen or shorten the trek. But one always advises hiring a tour guide in either case. Matterhorn has very steep structures on all sides, and hence a little training is essential before setting on the trail.
The village of Zermatt is particularly interesting for being car-free. People mostly cycle or stroll around with occasional taxis sneaking around. Most vehicles driven here are on battery, with horse carriages being a major public transport. The village is free of noise and as such let’s you relish the sunset, accompanied with the bird-songs. Most of the village is accessible on foot.
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